Mom Demographic Key to Building Trust Among Consumers

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: At Arizona Farm Bureau we’re building ongoing relationships with our Arizona families, most importantly our moms, so they become connected to Arizona farming; specifically our farmers and ranchers. Once they get to know us, we continue the conversation engaging our families in all aspects of our activities and programs where we know a fit exists.

Me and Rebecca French Smith during the Building Consumer Trust Panel January 13th.

This past Monday, I was part of a panel from various state Farm Bureaus providing tips on building greater trust among American consumers. During the panel discussion in the afternoon at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Antonio, nearly every one of the participants cited moms as the most important demographic. We also told the farmers and ranchers in the room that it’s imperative they engage in conversations with consumers.

“First moms, the public, need to know us, like us and then trust us,” said Rita Hechmer, marketing specialist for Ohio Farm Bureau. “It has to be in this order.” Ohio’s “Grow and Know” events through its Our Ohio program provide on-farm events, community involvement and hands-on learning.

Panel facilitator Judy Rupnow of Morgan Myers, began the session with consumer research. “Researchers tell us the public has concerns about where their food comes from. They want to learn more. And while they appear to like farmers, consumers are sometimes concerned that farmers won’t act ethically.”

“Along the way, we forgot to tell the public what we were doing,” Rupnow said. “This created a trust gap but that’s changing.” 

This ongoing engagement is resonating with moms on both sides of the aisle, including farm moms. Rebecca French Smith, multi-media specialist with Missouri Farm Bureau, said, “In addition to all the things we do in this area, our biggest initiative is to introduce them to farmers so we can put a face to farming. This is done in part by farm mommy bloggers too.”

Chris Magnuson, executive director of operations, news and communications, Illinois Farm Bureau, highlighted Illinois’ Farm Families program. “We’re using farmers for outreach through our website, videos and more and we’re engaged with mommy bloggers.”

Illinois Farm Bureau has also done extensive consumer research and plans to conduct a follow-up study to determine consumer attitudes now, after several years of its own consumer outreach efforts. “We hope to measure a shift in attitudes,” explained Magnuson.

In the meantime, the panel gives a few basic tips to farmers and ranchers to help keep a conversation going with consumers. The list follows.

  1. Listen. As the pundits like to say, it’s why we have two ears and one mouth.
  2. Share your story. We like and remember a story better than just statistics, the facts or science. People love to hear why you’re in farming or ranching. People can relate to stories; statistics can be intimidating.
  3. Show you care. You can avoid being defensive if you first try to understand someone’s concern. For example, when someone asks you about pesticide use, find out in more detail what their specific concerns might be then explain how your farm prudently uses them.
  4. Make a new friend. Set a goal to meet someone outside your typical circle of friends this year. In fact, try to make a connection with someone that might even have an opposite opinion of yours on various issues related to farming.

The panel all agreed that the best advocates for agriculture are farmers and ranchers. The public, certainly moms, want to know how we grow their food. In many ways, they do have a right to know especially since the story of agriculture is such an exciting one!